Q: Is there a way that I as a father can influence my daughter's attitude toward boys? If she chooses to marry, she will need to understand men and know how to relate to them. Is that something I should be thinking about?
A: You bet it is. Long before a girl finds her first real boyfriend or falls in love, her attitude toward men has been shaped quietly by her father. Why? Because the father-daughter relationship sets the stage for all future romantic involvements.
If a young woman's father rejects her, she'll spend her life trying to find a man who can meet the needs he never fulfilled in her heart. If he's warm and nurturing, she'll look for a lover to equal him. If he thinks she's beautiful and feminine, she'll be inclined to see herself that way. But if he rejects her as unattractive and uninteresting, she's likely to carry self-image problems into her adult years.
It's also true that a woman's relationship with her husband is significantly influenced by the way she perceived her father's authority. If he was overbearing or capricious during her earlier years, she may precipitate power struggles with her husband throughout married life. But if Dad blended love and discipline in a way that conveyed strength, she may be more comfortable with a give-and-take marriage characterized by mutual respect.
So much of what goes into marriage starts with the bride's father. That's why it behooves those of us with daughters to give our best effort to raising them properly. You are right to be thinking about that vital relationship.
Q: I am a grandmother who is blessed to have 14 grandchildren. I often take care of them and love just having them over. However, I would like to do more for them than just baby-sit. What can I do to really make an impact on their lives?
A: Grandparents can have a powerful influence on their grandchildren if they will take the time to invest in their lives. There is so much to be accomplished while they are young. One great contribution you can make is to preserve the heritage of your family by describing its history to your grandchildren and acquainting them with their ancestors.
The lyrics of an African folk song say that when an old person dies, it's as if a library has burned down. It is true. There's a richness of history in your memory of earlier days that will be lost if it isn't passed on to the next generation.
To preserve this heritage, you should tell them true stories of days gone by. Share your faith, your early family experiences, the obstacles you overcame or the failures you suffered. Those recollections bring a family together and give it a sense of identity.
My great-grandmother, Nanny, helped raise me from babyhood. She was already old when I was born and lived to be nearly 100 years old. I loved for her to tell me tales about her early life on the frontier. A favorite story involved mountain lions that would prowl around her log cabin at night and attack the livestock. She could hear them growling and moving past her window as she lay in bed. Nanny's father would try to shoot the cats or chase them away before they killed a pig or a goat.
I sat fascinated as this sweet lady described a world that had long vanished by the time I came on the scene. Her accounts of plains life helped open me to a love of history, a subject which fascinates me to this day.
The stories of your past, of your childhood, of your courtship with their grandfather, etc., can be treasures to your grandchildren. Unless you share those experiences with them, that part of their history will be gone forever. Take the time to make "yesterday" come alive for the kids in your family, and by all means, pass your faith along to the next generation.
James Dobson is chairman of the board for Focus on the Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the home.